Stacey, ever since you were little you had such a caring heart. So many stories I could tell about your kind spirit...did you always know you wanted to be a nurse?
I would say yes, I have always had a draw towards caring for people. In kindergarten, our teacher had us dress up for "What do you want to be when you grow up?". I dressed up as a nurse, with my scrawny little legs in white tights and a homemade nurses cap complete with a red cross. I knew early on that no matter what I did I wanted to spend time with people. As with most children, I changed my mind a lot, but when I was 13 my grandmother got very ill. I saw many great nurses and many inconsiderate nurses while she was hospitalized. I distinctly remember thinking, I can totally do better than these inconsiderate nurses. I can be a caring, compassionate nurse. And so began my true path to becoming a nurse.
Talk to us about your nursing specialization. How did you decide upon it?
I am currently a Nurse Manager for a Long Term Care Facility (aka a Nursing Home). I have always adored the elderly. From the time I was a child, I have been drawn to them and their spirit. The cranky old man who throws things to the sweet, quiet old woman who sings, they are all just darling to me. There is a great poverty in our society, a lack of respect for the elderly. Once you are no longer in the work force, once you no longer 'contribute', we have a way in this country to view these people as worthless. I disagree full-heartedly. I have been taught so much about life, love, happiness, sorrows and trials from the elderly. Before I got into long-term care, I worked as a Cardiac Nurse in a large university hospital. I selected this specialty right out of nursing school because I wanted something fast-paced and tough clinically to truly jump into the profession and use my education. I had to take some extra classes to learn more about heart arrhythmias, treatments, and procedures, but it surely was never a dull moment.
What's a day in the life like?
A day in the life...it all depends on the specialty. When I worked at the hospital, a day in the life was providing direct patient care to about 5 people who had varying acute ailments. These people generally had just suffered a heart attack, had a procedure to re-open valves via stenting, had a pacemaker placed or had a flare up of a chronic conditions like congestive heart failure. Each morning you receive report from the off-going nurse, prepare your medication computer cart and hit the ground running (sometimes literally). From there it is a matter of prioritizing care, who is sickest and needs medications first, which patient has surgery scheduled and what preparation do they need, etc. Sometimes your plan goes out the window if someone has a new acute issue that needs addressed. Now, in the long-term care management role, my day in the life has changed drastically. I oversee nurses and nurses aids in providing care to residents. I educate, encourage, and mentor staff. I attend meetings with family members called Care Plans to discuss the care their loved one is receiving and try to implement processes to improve overall daily life for the residents who live in our facility. It is fast-paced in its own way, because many elderly no longer are able to sufficiently verbalize their needs, its almost like detective work to make sure you are meeting their needs.
How do you see your faith play out in your work?
My faith propels me in my work. It not only helps me deal with the difficult times, providing comfort and peace when chaos inevitably happens; but it also gives me opportunity to go outside of myself. I have found that it is incredibly easy to fall into selfish habits, worrying about my own problems. Working with people during some of the tough moments in life such as new diagnoses of cancer, facing open-heart surgery, or the process of dying has opened my eyes to see the little blessings in life. I thank God each day for the opportunities He provides for me to bring joy to others in the little ways of a smile or kind word, and pray for the strength to seize each opportunity I am given. In my current job, I feel honored to be able to be there and pray for individuals as they pass away and provide family with comfort, kind words, and support.
You're going to hate me, but I'm sorry. I have to ask....is it like Grey's Anatomy?!
No, generally not. Grey's Anatomy shows the doctors completing most of the tasks you would find nurses and other hospital staff completing such as CPR, Medication Administration, drawing blood, obtaining X-rays, etc. There is also not all the drama of interstaff dating either. It happens, but not like on Greys.
Ok, okay. So no McSteamy or McDreamy. What advice do you have for someone looking to get into nursing? What do you wish someone would've told you?
Follow your dream! If you enjoy working with people, caring for them, and critical thinking this is the career for you. I wish when I started that I was told that the doctor isn't always right. It was part of my mindset originally that the doctors were the end all be all, but sometimes your nursing knowledge will be counter to a doctor's order. Trust your gut and question the orders. I learned this quickly on my own and it has been part of the most rewarding part, because if I can bring a different perspective to the doctor sometimes they can clinically make a different decision, or in most cases, I can learn from their medical knowledge and expand my understanding of clinical cases. All in all, if someone is looking into nursing, SHADOW NURSES! Reach out to a hospital or nursing home in your area and ask to follow a nurse for a day. Most places are open to this, and you can truly see what is done before you jump in. If you like it, take the leap, its been one heck of a jump and I am thrilled to continue in this career!